The Joy Of cruising in Burnout Paradise

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In most cases, driving, and this is true of both real life and games, is about the act of getting from point A to point B with your car. It’s about doing it efficiently, safely, and in as little time as possible. In games, your vehicle of choice might be a car with a jet engine under the hood and even a drive from place to place might be somewhat risky, but the point remains – just get from here to there, usually before your rivals.

One of Burnout Paradise’s greatest achievements is allowing you to do something else entirely. You can, and are encouraged to, just get behind the wheel and drive, without enemies, timers, or competition.

Racing is the means of progression through the game, but that progression is, for the most part, about getting new shiny toys. Different cars that look a bulkier or more aerodynamic or have speed lines to make then go faster, but that’s it, really. The game is not about racing – it’s about cruising.

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And the game is built to allow this. The roads are wide and often only curve slightly, there’s no punishment for crashing, and the game never calls you out for not racing. The game’s bikes offer an even ‘cleaner’ experience than the cars – there are no races, just checkpointed nature trails around landmarks. The perfect setting for cruising.

I’ve spent about 30 hours in Burnout Paradise – in the process of writing this article, I was driving around in the game and found a new area. The Lone Peaks Stock Car Track sits towards the southwest, and is a small figure 8 track that’s pretty easy to speed around.

I had never found it before. Perhaps I had never paid enough attention while driving along the road it sits on, or maybe I had seen it but had completely forgotten it exists. I spent a good 15 minutes just circling around it – not for a challenge, but because it was just fun to be driving around a simple pattern.

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There was no goal here. I had no aims when exploring the city or the countryside either. Sometimes I might turn off to see if I can make a jump or find out where a road I don’t typically use leads, but other times I’ll just keep going. Add in the fact that I’ll be playing my own soundtrack in the background, and it’s a perfect getaway.

In-between these paragraphs I’ve been going back to play a little more. Not to remind myself, but because it’s a great way to think. Paradise City isn’t the most beautiful game location, nor is it the most impressive, but it’s now the one I know best. I’ve spent more hours driving in Paradise City than any other location, real or virtual. I know it now, all of its landmarks and people.

Why do I play Burnout Paradise? Because I haven’t just fallen in love with racing here, but with the driving. With just moving, with its roads and corners and secret tunnels, with cruising along.

30 Comments

  1. Premium User Badge

    The Almighty Moo says:

    Burnout Paradise is one of the few games that Ive never uninstalled. It gets played all the time because it fits every mood from wanting to smash things to setting ones brain into idle.

  2. SanguineAngel says:

    I played this game a lot and I liked it fine but I was heartily dissappointed that there was no Crash Mode or Aftertouch. These seemed like absolutely essential must have that I just assumed they’d be included at the time.

    Also I hated not being able to restart a race and instead having to drive back to the start – it really made the challenges a chore.

    I also kinda disliked having to drive to them in the first place. I’d have preferred simply being able to select and event to participate in and being transported.

    But it was pretty good for driving around aimlessly. I did that more often just because I couldn’t/couldn’t be bothered to do the things I actually wanted to be doing in the game.

    • Premium User Badge

      The Almighty Moo says:

      On crash mode though you could just activate wherever you wanted. It didn’t have the bespoke chaise of the original modes but could still be a giggle for blowing stuff up. Did it not do it for you?

      Also, there was a fiddly menu system on the d pad you could activate to restart races I’m pretty sure…?

      • N'Al says:

        The race replay option was only introduced in a patch, AFAIK, so it wasn’t available if you got the game at launch. Still, it’s an option that exists, yes.

  3. Mr.Frank says:

    And that’s why whenever i unlocked the second island on gta vice city i would do the taxi mission to a 100 fares. Once you get going you have enough time to just drive, to enjoy the view. It was so relaxing

  4. GallonOfAlan says:

    Despite all its faults (shit map, no instant race retry, city essentially a series of racetracks) the whole family rinsed the fuck out of this, I still remember waiting for Big Surf Island to come out. Nearly 10 years old, now. Ten fuckin’ years, man.

    • icarussc says:

      There is instant race restart; it’s just hidden in an odd menu option off of the d-pad that took me a month to find out about.

  5. Faldrath says:

    Other than the car crashing, Forza Horizon 3 scratches the same itch. It does pester you to race sometimes, and, well, windows store only, but the driving itself is better than Burnout’s, the scenery is much prettier and it has licensed cars with a lot of detail.

    • Unsheep says:

      That is exactly why I don’t like the Forza Horizon games, they pester you far too much for my liking. I’ve played both #1 and #2 on console, but eventually quit because I got really annoyed with these constant interruptions. I hope they can ease up on this in a potential Forza Horizon #4.

  6. Papageno says:

    If only the Big Surf Island DLC had made it to the Windows version…
    I do want to play Forza Horizon 3 but Microsoft steadfastly refuses to lower the price of the base version lately.

    • Skian64 says:

      There is, in fact, a way to play Big Surf Island, online with co-op even! Just sans-traffic. Idk if I’m allowed to put any links in here, but googling “Burnout Paradise Vanity Pack” should send you on your way.

  7. Kollega says:

    What killed the appeal of cruising and sightseeing in Burnout Paradise stone-dead, as far as my experience is concerned, is one simple major gripe. It being, at top speed you’re more than able to circumnavigate the map in about five minutes.

    Now to be fair, I haven’t done much exploration, and the map is surprisingly densely packed, but… here’s the problem: high map density doesn’t really work when your normal cruising speed is around 100 kilometres per hour, because it’s hard to make yourself slow to a crawl every twenty seconds to see if you missed anything >_>

    If I made a game specifically about high-speed cruising and exploration, I think it would be more along the lines of Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit 2010 in terms of environments, but even more maximalist and varied: different biomes (perhaps out-and-out fantastical ones in addition to the more mundane ones), sweeping vistas, and a road network that’s noticeably more sparse than in Burnout Paradise, to encourage high-speed cruising and exploration without any need to slow down.

    I don’t really mean to knock most of Burnout Paradise here; the cars are wonderful, and the roads are built really well for high-speed driving, with frequent stunt opportunities too. It’s just that map size and density does not pan out for high-speed exploration, at least for me; you can loop ’round the world in five minutes if you’ve got a reasonably fast car, and to explore the out-of-the-way interesting places or the dense network of downtown streets, you need to slow down.

  8. Viral Frog says:

    I recently purchased this game for my 7 year old son and boy, I’m sure glad I did. He loves driving cars in these types of games, but he especially loves crashing them. Not only is that okay in this game, but it is encouraged. Plus, like this article mentions, there’s no strict requirements to participate in the races. He does every now and then. But he mostly just cruises and crashes and has fun.

    These types of games aren’t my thing. But in terms of value, I can say I got way more than what I paid for in this title. Watching how much fun my son has with it has made it worth every penny.

  9. Sin Vega says:

    See also: Just Cause 2 multiplayer, without NPCs (and on a server without other players, or with so few there are effectively none). Cruising around that huge and beautiful world on a tricky motorbike was wonderful.

  10. Chirez says:

    I remember enjoying Burnout Paradise, but every time I try to play it again I hit the menu, and the unskippable, unstoppable music. I hit the log in screen that I can’t log in to. I hit the offline game and the unskippable, unstoppable intro, and I remember the unavoidable radio bullshit and I recall that when I enjoyed BP it was despite its egregious flaws. I can’t even get into the usual multi monitor dance.

    I suspect the only way for me to enjoy the game now is with one monitor and the speakers off. It hardly seems worth it.

    • Ragnar says:

      PCGamingWiki is your friend. You can skip the intro, skip the music, etc.

      And what multi-monitor dance? Burnout Paradise has some of the best support I’ve seen – particularly amazing for such an old game. Turn on Eyefinity/Surround, configure the game to set the resolution and say how many monitors you’re using and where you want the HUD, and enjoy.

      P.S. Use your video card settings to force 16x AF to clean up those roads and make them look sharp rather than blurry.

  11. tslog says:

    The joy of cruising was non-existent for me because the scenery never enticed me. And judging by the screenshots above for a very small Sample, that just proves my point. The Horizen series did a better job at that, and even that wasn’t rewarding.

    And since when does talking about a racing game, like Burnout paradise by its proponents, do they never ever mention track design. EVER. Do you want to know, why because it’s horrendous. One of the worst I’ve ever experienced.
    A kid designing tracks with a toys set or designing tracks by drawing lines in the sand at the beach, would never come up with such bad track design.
    And having to use the mini map to locate the finish line is a bad idea every day of the week. It’s exactly why that idea has never been replicated since.

    Taking a different path of racing avoiding physical contact with other cars which was a highlight in the previous games, replaced sublime racing viscerality with the joyless goal of coming 1st.

    Then there’s the World of pointless filler collectables checklist that was an early harbinger of wasting time on irrelevanncies.

    Otherwise Burnout Paradise was A pretty forgetful game.

  12. ddubs says:

    I sooooooo want this as a re-master.

    Please EA, do something right for a change and announce this as a re-master (with all DLC) for 2018.

    Pleeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee-ease

    • PopeRatzo says:

      Forget the remaster, give me BP2. How about Burnout Nation, with a gigantic, coast-to-coast map like The Crew and cop chases and crash mode and stunt runs and head-to-heads? Multi-player parties where you line up cars and jump over them. Monster trucks. Dragsters.

      Oh lord, I’m all exercised now.

  13. xvre says:

    I gave this game a solid try (8 hours, according to Steam) but it got too repetitive and in the later stages of the career (which is just a series of “Win X races” objectives), the annoying bits far out-weighted the fun ones for me. I kept my save, but uninstalled eventually.

    I guess if I had played it in its time (before Forza Horizon), it would have left me with a better impression.

  14. PopeRatzo says:

    The most wonderful game. It gave me so much joy, I still play every new racer that I think might have a little bit of Burnout Paradise in it (NFS Most Wanted, Rivals, The Crew).

    My personal holy grail is a Burnout Paradise 2.

  15. Baines says:

    I didn’t find the world of Burnout Paradise appealing enough to just cruise. There isn’t anything natural to it. It feels completely engineered, a world built almost entirely from overlapping multiple racetracks.

    Something like The Club seems much more suited for cruising. Whereas Burnout Paradise is built from racetracks, The Club has an actual world that just happens to have racetracks inserted into it.

    • Urthman says:

      Ubisoft’s free-to-play (the free cars are more than sufficient) The Crew is currently my game for this. You can drive all over a condensed version of the USA and easily engage with (or ignore) speed, precision, and jumping challenges that are scattered all over without even having to stop.

      • MikoSquiz says:

        I recently reinstalled Test Drive Unlimited. Cruise around Oahu, collect cars, do races, and when you get sick of doing races get out your ’67 Mustang and just cruise forever. The really long races, like an hourlong marathon around the island, are excellent.

        Unfortunately TDU2 gated things a lot more heavily and kind of killed the idle-cruising appeal. And Burnout: Paradise didn’t live up to either in its cruise-potential, and didn’t live up to the Burnout series for me. Having played Takedown round a friend’s house I was pretty excited for Burnout on the PC, and then we got this thing instead.

      • Baines says:

        Sorry, I meant The Crew. The Club was an old third person shooter, I think?

  16. JustAchaP says:

    Still longing for some sort of Burnout 3 remaster or sequel that is similar, or heck just some other new racing game that is similar.

  17. Unsheep says:

    I think free-roaming is a neglected pleasure in driving/racing games. Those of us who enjoy it are in the minority. Most gamers complain whenever they have to drive somewhere in a game.

    You should have a look at the Test Drive Unlimited games as well. Although, Test Drive Unlimited 2 has some rather bad technical problems on PC, and is better played on console. In any case, these games offer a really nice first person view, making things even more immersive.

    Midnight Club LA was also fun to just drive around in. It’s been a while since I played it, but Driver: San Francisco also had freeroam if I remember correctly, where you could simply switch cars as you go.

    GTA V was great fun to drive around in as well, with its diverse landscapes, day-night cycles, and weather changes.

    The Forza Horizon games have one big problem when it comes to just enjoying a drive; you are never left alone. You are constantly being reminded to ‘do this’ or ‘do that’, you never have any “alone time” in these games. This is a great shame since these games would otherwise be really fun to cruise around in.

  18. Premium User Badge

    edna says:

    I completely agree with the emphasis of this article, though for me I have found that NfS:MW does the same thing only better. I can dare to look at the map whilst driving and don’t always crash. Plus you almost never write off your car – drive away crashes are the norm. To my mind it is Burnout PC 2.

  19. xp194 says:

    I still consider Burnout Paradise to be one of the best racing games made. It may not be the most advanced, and it’s certainly not perfect, but the city had a lot of character and it was the first racing games I played which just let you cruise with mates wherever. Fond memories of discovering the Airfield and Quarry, both unmarked locations with tons of jumps and stunt opportunities and just coming up with challenges on the fly. “Can we barrel roll this van through that pipe? How many cars can we jump this junker over?” Good times, and I’m gutted that no followups seem to be coming. I think the world is ready for another Burnout.

  20. Jabberwock says:

    Take me down to the paradise city
    Where the grass is green and the girls are pretty
    Oh won’t you please take me home, yeah yeah

    I had to.